One of my first cars was a navy blue Olds Ciera. That thing was the essence of comfort and style for a young kid learning to drive. It had 150k on it and drove without ever giving us any problems. Then one sunny day, a woman pulls across 4 lanes right out in front of me. Banged up the Ciera pretty good. So the door wouldn’t open and then we had it checked out more. The motor mounts gave out before that things motor! That was the end of the blue cruiser.
One a fun memory but sad ending note: My 72 Cutlass. White with black stripes and a ram air hood. I got it years ago in high school. 2 bbl 350 rocket got me around zippy but wasn’t fast. Little did I know, I would fall in love with the car the minute I went to go see it.
So I drove it pretty much stock for a while.
Then the hot rodding bug bit me. I got a dual exhaust, put an alum intake on it and a 4bbl carb. That was fun and was more than enough for me at the time even with a stock stall and 3.08 gears. Still not super fast but it was a blast to drive. More kick than anything else I could get my hands on at the time. And I absolutely loved the body lines.
Then 2 weeks later I learned why you don’t sup up engines with 110,000 miles on them. The internals can’t take it. 2 weeks after the headers went on, I heard what sounded like a box of wrenches inside my engine as I lost power and had to pull off the road.
It threw a rod.
So I began considering my rebuild options. 350 rocket. 455 rocket. Changing over to Chevy? Caddy 500? Hmm, that sounds interesting. Well, after dozens of hours going back and forth, I decided I wanted to build a 383 Chevy with AFR heads. Yes, a small upgrade from what I had. This would be my revenge on the car gods, or so I thought.
I was going to follow the build up in a carcraft article tellingly titled “540 horses for $4,800 bucks.” Of course, my costs would be higher as someone was going to have to help me with all this…
So I found a local former shop owner/drag racer with a garage setup at home and he agreed to do the machining for me and bottom end assembly. Ordered the stroker kit after buying a 4-bolt block. Cam, intake, gaskets, etc. I bring the bottom end someone else to get balanced. Pick it up 6 weeks later (thanks for hurrying, _______!) I bring it all over to the machinist. He puts it all together. Then I have to wait until someone will help me drop it in. We rip the old engine out. Remove the old AC hump. And hello frame damage.
So we have to stop then and there. I lose 6 months thinking its hopeless, considering scrapping the project and looking for another toy. Then, I happen to run into someone who says he can weld it easy. So more waiting. I bring it over. He’s done fast. My other friend is now too busy to help me. My new welding friend offers to help me drop it in quick.
Quick is 2 months and his wife wants it out of the garage. In the process I need a new driveshaft, a higher stall torque converter, and a dozen other misc things including that damn $500 carburetor. Ouch.
Finally, we get it all together and poop. It runs like a dog. And there are multiple electric problems (little things like the key will turn the key on but won’t shut it off).
So I bring it to a pro speed shop in town, thinking ok, its gonna cost me all the money I have left but darn it, it’ll be done.
Months later its not done. They finally get going on it. I agree to downgrade from the full out race carb to something more sane. I buy a 3.73 posi rear end and have it installed. I finally give in and spend the extra scratch on the MSD box.
Then, they call me a month ago, and say its all done. I go pick it up, pay the $1200 (leaving me with $100 in my bank account). I drive it. Yeah, it drives good and the key turns it off, but somethings still not right. Its slower than my supped up 350 rocket was and this is with a high stall and gears matched to the cam. This thing is supposed to be a conservative 450 flywheel hp engine, and it won’t spin the tires from a standstill and bogs like its clinging to life.
So that’s where I’m at. I’m a month into having it back. Can’t afford to have any more work done. Am sick of waiting. I’ll try idling it down a little but I doubt that’ll solve all the problems.
So I have this really cool car of my dreams and can’t get those last 10m. So for a while its just gonna have to wait in the garage for me. Unless I sell it for 10-20% of what I have in it due to other personal reasons.